Guest post – How much should toddlers eat during meal times?

When your baby starts eating solids, it is a fun but worrying time. I have heard the saying “food before one is for fun” so many times and I always tried to remind myself of it when Oscar was a slow weaner. The problem is, what about after one? What about when it is no longer just for fun and is actually really important to get food into them? When they have thrown their food onto the floor or are point blank refusing it. What then? You can’t help but worry about how much they are actually consuming into their little bodies. 

It was just a few weeks ago that I was worrying about how much Oscar was eating. I think he was teething, or just feeling a little off, but I was still worried and it was super frustrating when the only thing that he would eat was yogurt. I was concerned that he wasn’t getting the right nutrients into his body.

At the same time, I was contacted by Erica at Inner Parents about guest posting for me. And when I looked at her previous content, I asked her if she would write me a post about toddler eating, and in particular, how much they should eat! And so she has! So it’s over to Erica!

As your baby transforms into a toddler right before your eyes, you may begin to wonder about his mealtime habits. Is he getting enough nutrients? How many calories does she need to grow properly? Is he eating too much or too often? Why won’t she eat? It’s easy to worry about everything our children do, and this is especially true when it comes to food habits.

Luckily, toddlers are still very good at knowing when they are hungry and how much they need to eat. In general, offering a wide variety of healthy foods and paying attention to hunger cues will ensure good nutrition and keep your toddler strong, growing, and developmentally sound.

How Many Calories Does Your Toddler Need?

Perhaps for the first year of your baby’s life, you followed the advice found in articles like this one, but now that you’ve hit the threshold of toddlerhood you feel a little out of your comfort zone.

Generally speaking, toddlers require 1000-1400 Calories per day from a variety of healthy sources. It is important to remember that in the second year of life and beyond, growth slows significantly and changes in appetite are to be expected. At this point, your child should consume a majority of his or her Calories from carbohydrates with proteins and fats added in for healthy growth and development. Additionally, keep in mind that children who are more active will require more Calories to meet their basic needs and that Caloric needs tend to increase with age and weight.

How Frequently Does Your Toddler Eat?

How much your toddler eats during mealtimes is highly dependent on how hungry that child is when you’re sitting down for a meal. While it can be tempting to let your busy toddler “graze” on healthy snacks all day, you need to know that this will affect how much your little one eats when you sit down for meals.

Most experts agree that toddlers should be given healthy foods to enjoy every 2-3 hours. Upon hearing this you may think, “Wow, that’s really often, my kid must need to eat a lot!” However, it’s important to remember that during the toddler years, children still have tiny tummies that fill up rather quickly. Additionally, because of their decreased growth rate as compared to their younger selves, toddler appetites may fluctuate from one “meal” to the next. As a good practice, offer your child breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with healthy, Calorie dense snacks in between.

Why Won’t My Toddler Eat?

It’s no secret that as your baby transforms into a toddler, his or her sense of identity transforms with it. Babies quickly go from seeing themselves as an extension of their primary caregiver to an individual with likes and dislikes. While your baby may have loved trying every new taste and texture you offered, your toddler may present as a much more finicky eater.

While this stage can be frustrating (and worrisome) for parents, it’s important to follow your toddler’s intuition. Continue to offer a wide variety of healthy foods and encourage your toddler when he or she chooses to enjoy this food. Inevitably there will be some foods that your toddler prefers over others, but keep trying new things and rest assured that toddlers will eat when they are hungry.

In addition, try not to forget that liquid Calories count too. While it may seem that your toddler will not eat food, he or she may have just filled up on too many calorically dense liquids. Milk, juice, and smoothies can all be healthy options for your growing child, but they are calorically dense and they will fill your toddler’s tummy.

Why Does My Toddler Eat So Much?

While it’s common for appetite to decrease during the toddler years, expect periods of rapid development from time to time that lead to an increase in appetite. As mentioned previously, toddlers are naturally good at knowing when they are hungry and how much to eat. As long as you offer nutritious meals and snacks you shouldn’t worry about your toddler overeating. Your toddler may have a very active digestive system or may be burning Calories faster than you think. The key here is to shy away from unhealthy “treat” type foods and make sure that your child is being offered nutrient-dense foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Trust Yourself

You know your toddler better than anyone else. That being said, if you suspect that your child isn’t eating enough (or that he’s eating too much) simply check with your pediatrician. A doctor can let you know if your child is growing properly and offer solutions to any problems you may encounter.



  1. Karry McLean
    January 31, 2018 / 9:19 am

    I have never checked calories. I tend to trust myself and see how my baby responds. Sometimes she will eat more but nothing that big.

    • February 10, 2018 / 10:07 pm

      Yep – quite often that’s the best thing to do. But then there are the days when he barely eats anything and I can’t help but worry!

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